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About Celiac Travel
Why we made our free restaurant dining cards
People often ask me why I spent the time putting this website together and creating the free gluten free restaurant dining cards.
Well, I have celiac / coeliac disease - and I was sick of being poisoned in restaurants, even after asking for gluten free food…
If you're celiac, you will know what I’m talking about.
Each time I dined out I was more and more careful to make my gluten free food requirements clear. Did it work? Did it heck! Here are just a few examples…
My Worst Gluten Free Nightmare
Let’s start with what must be the worst… our wedding day.
After getting married in Las Vegas (yep, we really did that!), we went to the Stratosphere for a meal, a huge tower hotel in the middle of Vegas with a revolving restaurant on top! After a drink, we were seated at our table and our waiter introduced himself.
As usual, I took about 2 minutes to explain what celiac disease was and how I needed gluten free food. He took it all in, we ordered, and he went off to check with the chef. Then he came back with the wine and told us it was all sorted.
Deadly mushrooms, crusty lamb
The starter came, grilled giant mushrooms – very tasty, and then the main. But what had been described as ‘rack of lamb’ came with a pastry crust!
I called the waiter over and pointed this out. “Oh!” he said, “I forgot to check!” My stomach hit the floor. “Could you go and check the starter I just ate please?” I asked.
A couple of minutes later, a waitress returned in his place and with great concern explained that the starter hadn’t been gluten free at all. As you can imagine, I wasn’t overly happy.
All credit to her and the restaurant manager, they were really apologetic, and we didn’t have to pay for our meal, but that didn’t stop me being really unwell for 2 days. 2 days out of our 7 day honeymoon. Grrrr….
I have to say that was the worst, but there have been many others, and all after clear, definite explanations of celiac disease…
More Restaurants in Gluten Poisoning Shocker!
- A steak in TGI Friday’s covered in non-gluten-free seasoning, which was invisible until after I ate it!
- A dish in Turkey with a crusty topping replaced with one baked on a base of bread! ( I have to admit that was probably down to my Turkish!)
- Soup in an organic ‘health food’ restaurant with barley in it (they assured me they knew about gluten free food, and then said later they didn’t know the celiac diet excluded barley!)
- Grilled fish coated in flour – they had promised not to coat it, but forgot in the 20 minutes it took us to finish our starter. Sheesh...
I have to tell you, I was starting to wonder what I was doing wrong! Was I speaking a different language?
The Health Implications Were Not Lost On Me!
And more seriously, I was getting more and more worried about my health, what these repeated gluten ‘incidences’ were doing to my system, not to mention my long term health.
My symptoms kept leading me to think about cancer, osteoporosis and all the other horror stories you hear about what happens if you don’t stick to your gluten free diet.
I just couldn’t understand what the problem was. Wasn’t I being clear enough? Was there something wrong with the way I was telling them about gluten free food?
And then I realised…What An Idiot!
I couldn’t believe I had been so stupid! I used to work in a restaurant kitchen, so I should have known.
Restaurant kitchens are among the noisiest, most hectic, busy workplaces in the world. It’s not surprising that a simple verbal request gets lost – especially with the way most chefs treat waiters and waitresses (!)
Coupled with the effects on my health, we realised we had to do something about it. I had had enough - and so had my wife Lyndsay! :-(
It Was Time to DO Something!
So we started looking for gluten free dining cards specifically for celiac disease sufferers, stating clearly the need for gluten free food and what that meant. And particularly ones that made it obvious how important it is!
But could we find any?
Well sure, the odd one here and there, but they always looked shabby, or we couldn't be sure about the translation. We wanted professionally-designed and translated cards in multiple languages that we could use in Thai, Indian or European restaurants (We love spicy food! :-)
Eventually we gave up looking. We couldn’t find any cards that looked professional, that had multiple languages and that we could get hold of easily.
But we weren’t beaten yet…
I was diagnosed with celiac disease when I was 25 (I’m 35 now). It really didn't bother me that much at the time because I felt so much better with the gluten free diet. Since then it has been a bit of a battle to keep strictly to my diet. As you'll know, hidden gluten creeps in all over the place, and it was made worse by the fact that my wife and I love to travel, and I was frequently made ill on trips away. (That’s us above – ahhhh… )
We took matters into our own hands...
We didn’t want to give up the lifestyle we loved, so we decided to take matters into our own hands and make our own gluten free restaurant cards in English to see how well they worked. And, miracle of miracles, several amazing things happened…
Wonders Will Never Cease!
When we went to eat out, instead of waiting with a sense of impending doom for ‘the right moment’ to speak to someone, I would just hand a card to the person that seated us and ask them to take it to the chef.
This is what happened...
- First of all, (and against my expectations) waiting staff were really pleased to get the card so they didn’t have the pressure of understanding my requests and conveying them verbally to a busy chef!
- I started getting lists of gluten free dishes back from the kitchen, with the dishes I could eat, and sometimes even the dishes they could make gluten free specially!
- That dreaded feeling of ‘here we go again’ when entering a restaurant disappeared.
- I was able to relax and chat with friends again – after all, what eating out is all about!
- I could enjoy my food properly.
- I just felt better. Not only was I avoiding gluten, but I simply felt good about looking after myself.
- I realised how much pressure I had been feeling. I really had stopped enjoying eating out. It was like when you put down a heavy rucksack after carrying it up a hill - I just felt lighter !
And most importantly… I stopped being poisoned.
The most important thing about the restaurant card is that you can actually give something to the person who serves you.
THIS MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE!
And, when your order is taken, you can give them another card to clip to your order, to make sure the kitchen knows who you are.
I couldn't keep this to myself, and so that's why Lyndsay and I spent all that time building this website. So you can use our gluten free restaurant cards too. I hope they help you as much as they have helped me.